“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Reading Philippians 1 this week suddenly brought to my mind the phrase: “I’ve started, so I’ll finish.” Fans of ‘Mastermind’ will recognise that phrase, first coined by the initial presenter, Magnus Magnusson, which became his catchphrase and the title of the short history he later wrote about the programme. The show’s creator, Bill Wright, drew inspiration for the quiz’s format from his personal experience of being interrogated by the Gestapo during WWII. It certainly had an air of intimidation about out it, reflected even in the iconic music by Neil Richardson which, appropriately, he called, ‘Approaching Menace.’
From time to time, I have seen personal pride and the outcome of an episode shift on how a contestant responds to the jeopardy of a half-asked question as the whistle blows who hears those life-line words: “I’ve started so I’ll finish.” The time is up. The whistle has gone. The end has come. Yet a last tantalising hope of victory sits in the air. For a split-second glory or ignominy, victory or defeat, success or failure, all or nothing, hang there. Everything depends on a contestant’s self-control, knowledge and recall in that instant. All played out in front of an audience of millions. And at the end of each series only one person will hold the trophy and claim the title ‘Mastermind.’ In the programme, the phrase “I’ve started, so I’ll finish” somehow chimes with that sense of menace and of peril and of a last, uncertain toss of the dice that throws everything back on the contestant.
Yet reading Philippians 1:6 entirely changes the tone of the phrase, “I’ve started, so I’ll finish.” What a comfort and encouragement I find it to know that “he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion.” Holding a straight course in a crooked world, keeping a clean life in a dirty world, staying moral in an immoral world, godliness in a godless world, is tiring. Especially when my days of spiritual triumph seem to be so often followed by my own flaws and failures. How wonderful it is to be reminded that ultimate success does not after all depend on me or my skill or my ability or my strength. Rather it all depends on the Lord.
If today you struggle, hold on to this: what He’s started in you, He will finish. If today you are more conscious of everything you got wrong and everything you have messed up, hold on to this: He never writes anyone off. What he’s begun in you, He will carry on to completion. If today you feel only the approaching menace of defeat, hold on to this: His confident voice of promise assuring you, “I’ve started, so I’ll finish. I will carry on until you stand complete.”